I really found a connection between the public nature of torture/death in medieval France and the concept of martyrdom, as defined by Middleton. Both require a certain kind of audience, because the audiences’ role defines how the nature of the act will be interpreted. The audience holds a central power in how the “drama” plays out. The outcome is ambiguous.
In describing the nature of medieval torture, Foucault discusses how judicial torture was meant to transition into the torture of the execution, and how that would transition into the expected torture beyond the grave. This brings God and his judgment into the picture. This allows for the audience to view the condemned man in two different ways. If the victim suffers greatly while dying, is it proof of his damnation? Or is it somehow an act of penance, which will relieve him of whatever punishment awaits him in death? Is a quick death a sign that God wishes to protect the victim? Is he a criminal at all?
Middleton defines a martyr based on how his death is interpreted and used. There’s ambiguity- the audience- the people affected- are the ones who decide what to make of the person and their death.
The suffering of the victim can be interpreted to either validate the “truth of the crime or the error of the judges, the goodness or the evil of the criminal, the coincidence or the divergence between the judgment of men and that of God” (46). The criminal can inspire mercy or hatred from the audience, who may try to save him or kill him more thoroughly, based on what they see. In a “drama” which speaks to the power and authority of the sovereign in carrying out the law, a criminal’s actions and treatment can transform the criminal into a hero; his death into a certain kind of martyrdom.